A simple mission to eliminate the stickiness that comes along with the gooey goodness of pure maple syrup has landed a bottle of Butternut Mountain Farm’s syrup in outer space.
Late in 2016, a French astronaut tweeted a picture from outer space. As WCAX News in Vermont first reported, the photos showed astronauts at the International Space Station at meal time. Lined up among an assortment of condiments was a squeeze bottle of Vermont-based Butternut Mountain Farm’s maple syrup.
“At first we thought it might be a hoax. We did a bit of sleuthing to make sure it was the real deal,” said Emma Marvin. Emma and her brother, Ira, are third-generation owner and operators of Butternut Mountain Farms in Morrisville, Vermont.
Ironically, the squeeze bottle packaging was the reason this farm’s syrup was sent into space. On Earth, gravity draws maple syrup out of traditional plastic jug or glass bottle packaging. In space, there is zero gravity to encourage the flow of the maple syrup. But the squeeze bottle packaging enables the astronauts to apply the syrup to the desired locations.
The idea for the squeeze bottle packaging was first inspired by practicality, not science.
“My little girls were always pouring just a little too much syrup on their cereal in the morning,” Emma said. “We were always finding ourselves with a sticky container in the fridge. My husband thought there had to be a better way.”
The couple put maple syrup in an old ketchup bottle and it worked. It became the perfect solution to the astronaut’s dilemma. Butternut Mountain Farm sells approximately 12,000 squeeze bottles of syrup each year, a figure much less than that sold in traditional packaging.
Experimentation is nothing new for the Marvin family. Nearly a decade before Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins first landed on the moon, Emma and Ira’s grandfather, Dr. James Wallace Marvin, was conducting ground-breaking research that would change the future of the maple industry.
As a botanist and research professor, he studied the mechanism of sap flow in sugar maple trees and his work led to the creation of the tubing and vacuum systems commonly used today in sap harvest. Today, the Marvin family continues the tradition of innovation. Their products are certified organic, Kosher and Safe Quality Food (SQF), a third-party food safety certification.
“We felt it was really important to listen to our private label customers and their customers were looking to purchase an organic food basket,” Emma said. “We hated the idea that a consumer might pick up an alternative breakfast topping over pure maple syrup simply because that product was certified organic and ours wasn’t.”
“Broadly speaking, we want our product to be widely accessible and having these certifications ensures that,” she added.